This blog is based upon the assumption that an event in the Original Timeline caused a fracture in time, resulting in the creation of an "alternative" timeline. I am being very careful in my choice of words here, as to when this might have occurred, and what event triggered it. I don't want to get into arguments about bombs, 1950's etc., so I have stripped away all talk of actual events to lay bare the reasoning. As with most of my blog on this subject, the material is quite difficult, and in places, challenging, not only to the reader, but also to the writer.
NB: This blog is a continuation of the thread started in the first blog on 'Dating the Split in timelines' which I intend to return to after this epic.
The material below looks carefully at the implications of time travelling which culminates in an event both happenning and not happening. It explores whether or not such an event could "cause" a theoretical fracture to the timeline, and if so, what would be the consequences. It concludes that there are two possible outcomes, one of which is a 'bifurcated timeline', in which all events occur up to the fracture point, and then the timeline splits into two beyond this; the other outcome is a (potentially infinite)set of independent timelines which have no points in common, and where, in theory every single timeline could be cited as a possible alternative to the original. In this outcome, the claim that an event in the original timeline "caused" the existence of sich a timeline is shown to be meaningless.
Suppose that in an "original" Timeline (OT), some time travelling events occurred in which travellers from the future go to the past of the OT, and affect events, including some event E in the OT responsible for triggering the fracture at time T. Further suppose that the result is that an Alternative Timeline (AT) is created, which does not contain the time travellers OR their time-travelling events.
Some Immediate Consequences
The assumptions as stated, provide us immediately with two distinct viewpoints:
- Viewed from the OT, the split makes perfect sense. Event E has two possibilities: It either occurs or it does not occur. If it occurs, then the events of OT play out exactly as before, events proceed to the future, time-travellers return and 'cause' the fracture. If it does not occur, the timeline splits and we get an alternative (AT) where the time travelling does not exist.
- Viewed from the AT, however, there are now no time travellers, and "Event E" does not exist, ever. This must be so, as this timeline has been created with the specific rule that Event E does not occur.
Firstly, we need to notice that time is a dimension that exists within each timeline, and is not external to it; there is no 'meta-time' to supervise events. Causality of necessity requires A to precede B in a sequence. It is irrelevant whether we are time travelling or not; we need to be able to "tell the story" of a how events unfold. In time travelling, it is entirely possible for events at a later time to "cause" events at an earlier time, because someone has travelled back in time to affect the earler event. In chronological timeline terms, we can therefore have events preceding causes; in narrative terms however, we cannot. In order to make sense of time-travelling scenarios, we need to invoke the idea of a 'narrative meta-time' which transcends the purely chronological linear time, and follows up the succession of causes & events which make up the time-travelling saga. However, both of these (time & meta-time) are constructions, created in order for us to make sense of the whole. In fact, when the entire 'scenario' is viewed from an outside the timelines, and the time travelling saga is complete, with the whole narrative wrapped up, all events become frozen, and there is no 'flow', no 'movement along any time axis'. Things are as they are, and all events exist embedded in a particular sequence. Given this fact, any notion that an event in an Original Timeline 'causes' a split to occur, creating an AT must necessarily mean that the cause lies in the OT and its traceable effect lies in the AT. In terms of the meta-time narrative, this means that a chain of events must necessarily be able to be followed, starting in the OT but ending in the AT.
Secondly, from the perspective of a resident of the AT, we now have a scenario where a chain of events occurs in the AT which has no apparent cause, because the beginning of the causal chain lies entirely in the OT, which is invisible to the resident. The only way in which this becomes understandable to a person in the OT, is to allow that the OT & AT are a unified whole, embedded in some sort of overarching 'meta-time' or 'meta-narrative'. This presents a different picture, one in which splits each of AT & OT into two parts, AT1 & OT1 which occur before the fracture, and AT2 & OT2 which occur after the fracture. We now have two possible scenarios:
- Scenario 1: a simple split in the timelines with a single common point at time T
- The chain of events starts in OT1, culminating in event E, which occurs, and ends in OT2
- The chain of events starts in OT1, cuminating in the non-occurrence of Event E, and ending in AT2.
- Scenario 2: a complete rewriting of the timelines, in such a way as to provide an entirely new history for the 'alternate timeline'
- The chain of events starts in OT1, culminating in event E, which occurs, and ends in OT2
- The chain of events starts in AT1, cuminating in the non-occurrence of an Event E, and ending in AT2.
Taking the case of Scenario 1:
If this is the case, then at what point can the "chain of events be said to start?" If person A is the start of an event, then this person has been "caused" by his parents, and his parents by their parents and so on. If the event involves an object, then that object has an origin; someone made it, or it arrived there via a sequence of events. In other words, the very fact that we identify a causal chain starting in the OT, must necessarily mean that we can trace events back in that causal chain right to the start of the timeline. In this way, we must necessarily require that all of these events (and their subsequent consequential events) in the OT from the start of the OT universe, right up to Event E itself to be necessary precursors of the Event. This means that the whole of OT1 is necessary for Event E to be in place. This being so, then in the OT, the seqeunce of necessary events is OT1, E, OT2, and in the AT, the sequence of necessary events is OT1, not E, OT2. However, this observation effectively renders redundant the whole of AT1, since it now serves no function whatsoever.
Summary of Scenario 1
This means that the only possible version of this scenario where a timeline fracture occurs at an event E, and where a single timeline (OT1) exists up to the fracture point T. Beyond this there are two timelines: one where E occurs (OT2), and one where it does not (AT2). This leads to a bifurcated timelines scenario, with a fracture/divergence point at the event E
Taking the case of Scenario 2:
This has now posited an entirely separate timeline AT, with no events in common with OT. To say that event E 'does not occur' is meaningless. The precursor events leading to Event E are contained purely within OT1. It may be argued that there is a "version" of events in AT1, which is 'similar' to those in OT1, but they are not the same, as these events now lie in two independent timelines. Since the dimension of "time" is internal to each timeline, the notion that they are parallel, or have any kind of synchronicity of events between them cannot be sustained. In any case, since we have constructed the two timelines so that in one, Event E occurs, and in the other, Event E does not occur, and the events leading up to these have independent histories, at what point are we supposed to put time T (the time of Event E in the OT), in the AT. Event E does not occur ar every point, and so there is no single point which we can identify to say 'E does not occur'.
This now presents us with a dilemma in terms of the meta-narrative. If it is claimed that an event in the OT "is responsible for" the existence of the AT, then there must be some link between the two; however, the start to the meta-narrative begins and ends in the OT. In terms of the completed set of all events, frozen and embedded in meta-time, there is no sequence which can be followed, which clearly provides any causal link between the events of the OT and the "coming into existence" of the AT. The AT is there, it is preserved in the meta-time scenario as an independent entity, with its own its own internal causality, which does not require an event from another timeline to cause it to come into existence.
'Summary of Scenario 2 This means that while it is possible that an 'alternative timeline' exists which presents a different history to the Original timeline, the argument that an event in the OT caused the At to come into being cannot be sustained. Effectively the AT & OT are just two alternatives which have no common links between them, and there could, in theory be any number of such timelines, some of which appear to have common elements, others of which have very few or no commonalities. In every case these are independent and there is no direct connection between any of them, and certainly not causal. In this case, we arrive at a 'multiple independent timelines' scenario where there are many version of reality, but none of these has a direct causeal link to the OT.
Conclusion: The "fracture point" hypothesis results in either a single "bifurcated timeline" or a (possibly infinite) set of "multiple independent timelines". In the case of the former, the causal link occurs at the point of bifurcation; in the second, there is no direct causla link between the original timeline and any of its alternatives.